Voting choices

Sunday, August 17, 2008

There were choices to be made in the Aug. 4 primary elections, but most voters in Missouri and in Cape Girardeau County appeared satisfied to let someone else -- just a fraction of registered voters -- make those decisions.

State and county election officials had predicted before the election that there would be a good turnout. There were contests for statewide offices, including a particularly heated faceoff between U.S. Rep. Kenny Hulshof and State Treasurer Sarah Steelman for the Republican nomination for governor. In Cape Girardeau County, there was a 10-way contest for the GOP nomination for the 1st District seat on the county commission that should have been a big draw for voters. And the Republican nomination for state representative in the 158th District featured a three-way race from three strong candidates, and that contest also was expected to pull voters to the polls.

But it didn't happen.

Plenty of excuses

Some blamed the high heat and humidity for keeping older voters, a demographic that usually makes a point of voting, in their air-conditioned homes. Others said the enormous attention being given in the national news media to the presidential hopefuls overshadowed state and local races. Still other suggested that the campaign hype and annoying robo-calling by politicians turned off voters.

Whatever the reason, a mere 19 percent of Missouri's voters made the effort to go to polling places in the primary. In Cape Girardeau County the turnout was only modestly higher: 24 percent.

The numbers are expected to increase in the Nov. 4 general election, when presidential contenders will be on the ballot. In addition, there will likely be some ballot issues that ought to attract some voters across Missouri.

Will voters bother?

In the end, it comes down to this: Will the contests for state and local offices appeal to voters? Or will voters, including many who are disenchanted with politics in general and the negative bashing among candidates in particular, simply stay at home and let a few voters make all the decisions for them?

Let's hope voters will seek more information about the candidates and issues and express their choices with ballots. There are plenty of ways to get information, including the newspaper, other media outlets, the Internet and the candidates themselves.

Get ready to make good choices. It's worth the effort.

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